Who would’ve thought that the season could go by so fast! It’s already Week 12, and it still feels like there are more questions than answers surrounding teams- it’s time for the premier contenders to separate themselves from the rest of a very clustered pack. Luckily for us, we have more intriguing matchups, especially in primetime, which could have major playoff implications. So, who’ll come away victorious in those matchups? Let’s predict every game that’ll occur in Week 12!
TNF: Colts (6-4) at Texans (6-4)
Spread Pick: HOU (-3.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (45.5)
Score Prediction: Colts 20 Texans 27
Right off the bat, the game with arguably the most on the line will take place on Thursday Night Football- the winner of this Colts-Texans matchup will be the clear frontrunner to win the AFC South. Indianapolis came away victorious in the first meeting between these two teams, and with them getting healthier as Houston has been decimated with injuries, an argument can be made that they have the upper-hand in this game. Yet, that doesn’t appear the be the case. Yes, Jacoby Brissett should be able to move the ball against a decimated pass defense, but at the same time, he’s been very inconsistent this season, and Houston’s defensive line should be able to limit the Colts’ strong rushing attack. Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson is due for a bounceback after performing so poorly in Baltimore, and he absolutely dissected Indianapolis’ pass defense in these two team’s first matchup. Plus, unlike Brissett, Watson should be able to benefit from an efficient rushing performance, as the Colts’ defensive line has been exposed in run defense multiple times, including in the aforementioned first game between these two teams. It’ll be a very tight affair, but the Texans are the more explosive team, should play with a lot of urgency coming off of an embarrassing loss, and are at home on a short week- they should be able to take back control of the division with a win.
Buccaneers (3-7) at Falcons (3-7)
Spread Pick: ATL (-3.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (52)
Score Prediction: Bucs 31 Falcons 35
Although neither the Bucs and Falcons are likely to make the playoffs this season, they’re two exciting teams with explosive passing offenses- this should be a very fun game to watch. Yet, it appears that these two teams are trending in different directions. While Atlanta has put together two consecutive all-around performances, Tampa Bay continues to beat themselves, and it’s looking more and more like Jameis Winston won’t be their quarterback in 2020. Meanwhile, Matt Ryan has quietly had a fantastic season, and now, he gets to feast against one of the worst passing defenses in the NFL. Plus, Winston is dealing with an ankle injury, he’s much more mistake-prone than Ryan, and overall, the Falcons pass defense poses more of a threat than Tampa Bay’s- they’ve been tremendous over the past two weeks. Thes teams always play each other closely, but Atlanta is playing significantly better at the moment, and should find a way to win their third straight game.
Broncos (3-7) at Bills (7-3)
Spread Pick: DEN (+3.5)/PUSH
Over/Under Pick: Under (37)
Score Prediction: Broncos 10 Bills 13
The Broncos and the Bills may have opposite records, but based on their true talent and my power rankings, these two teams are actually nearly identical. They’re both defensive-first teams with solid rushing attacks, but inconsistency at quarterback hurts them- this should be a very hard-fought game, and is thus difficult to predict. Still, I lean with the home team here. Buffalo’s defense may struggle against above-average offenses, but luckily for them, Denver’s offense is far from that. Brandon Allen has had a nice run under center, but most of his success has come via top receiver Courtland Sutton, yet he may be limited by top corner Tre’Davious White. Furthermore, the Broncos theoretically should be able to run the ball all over the Bills’ weak run defense, but that may not actually be the case. Denver utilizes their fullback on a lot of rushing plays, but with Andy Janovich on IR with a fractured elbow, they may not be as effective on the ground. Then, there’s also a psychological factor. The Broncos have little to play for at this point, and could be deflated after blowing a 20-point lead in Minnesota- they may have put all their effort into a losing effort. Meanwhile, the Bills coasted to an easy victory in Miami, and have a lot to play for as they aim to secure a wildcard spot. With more to play for, I expect Buffalo to play hard in front of their home crowd, and as a result, escape with a win in what’ll be a close, low-scoring affair.
Giants (2-8) at Bears (4-6)
Spread Pick: CHI (-6)
Over/Under Pick: Over (40)
Score Prediction: Giants 17 Bears 28
Rejoice Bears fans, Mitch Trubisky has been cleared to start this weekend! All jokes aside, it’s been a very rough season for the third-year quarterback and the Bears offense, but this could be a mini-break out. Obviously, the combination of poor quarterback play, zero rushing attack, and questionable play-calling makes it extremely difficult to trust Chicago, but it’s even tougher to trust the Giants’ secondary, which is even harder to believe in. Quietly, the Bears have a solid receiving corps, led by Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Anthony Miller. They should be able to create plenty of separation from New York’s weak group of cornerbacks, and since Trubisky probably won’t be under pressure against a subpar pass rush, even he will be able to take advantage of that. Furthermore, we all are aware of Daniel Jones’ turnover issues, and with tight ends Evan Engrams and Rhett Ellison out with injuries, this feels like a game in which Chicago’s defense finally breaks out with multiple turnovers. Especially since a 2-8 Giants team will likely be rusty off their bye week, I expect the Bears to jump on them early in this game, and cruise to at least a two-score victory.
Steelers (5-5) at Bengals (0-10)
Spread Pick: PIT (-6.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (37.5)
Score Prediction: Steelers 17 Bengals 3
Could the Bengals win their first game this week? After all, an already poor Steelers offense will be without top receiver Juju Smith-Schuster and running back James Conner, so Cincinnati may not have to score many points to win this game. Then again, they only allowed 17 points to Oakland, and couldn’t muster more than 10 points against a subpar defense. Therefore, even though their defense should limit Pittsburgh, why should we have any faith in their offense? Fourth-round rookie Ryan Finley has been abysmal in his early action, as he holds onto the ball way too long and makes a significant amount of poor decisions, which doesn’t exactly work behind one of the league’s worst offensive line. Said offensive line was destroyed by Pittsburgh’s elite pass rush when they matched up in Week 4, as the Steelers allowed three points against an Andy Dalton-led offense. So, yes, this is a scary trap game for Pittsburgh, but they need this win and have the defense to suffocate what is likely the league’s worst offense in the league- there may be more defensive touchdowns than offensive touchdowns, but I’ll take them to win by more than one score.
Dolphins (2-8) at Browns (4-6)
Spread Pick: CLE (-10.5)/PUSH
Over/Under Pick: Over (45.5)
Score Prediction: Dolphins 20 Browns 31
Due to the fallout from star edge rusher Myles Garrett’s indefinite suspension, there’s a chance that the Browns, who have been undisciplined and not organized all season long, could come out flat against a Dolphins team that’s fought hard this season. However, Cleveland’s offense has also extremely underperformed, given their talent, and could due for a massive breakout game. Fortunately for them, they face one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL- one that should be vulnerable to the Browns’ vertical passing game. That’s especially true, when considering Cleveland’s main issue offensively has been their pass protection, yet they’re facing a pass rush that grades out as the worst in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. With Garrett and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi both suspended, the Browns defense will probably have to make some massive adjustments. Still, their offense should be able to score enough points to support them- they’ll likely be able to cover the spread as 10.5 point favorites.
Panthers (5-5) at Saints (8-2)
Spread Pick: CAR (+10)
Over/Under Pick: Over (46)
Score Prediction: Panthers 34 Saints 20
In another NFC South matchup, the Saints will host the Panthers in an important game for both sides. Carolina is looking to get back on track after a loss against the Falcons, while New Orleans will try to build on their win in Tampa last week. Between the two options, I’ll take the former. Kyle Allen didn’t play well last week, but he’s been very up-and-down this season, and facing a secondary that’s vulnerable even if top corner Marshon Lattimore is able to play, he should have a nice bounceback performance through the air. Plus, another major criticism of New Orleans’ defense is their lack of speed, and now, they’ll have to contain the likes of Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore, and Curtis Samuel. Meanwhile, while the Panthers’ offense should have plenty of big plays through the air, Drew Brees has an atrocious 0.54% big-time throw rate, per Pro Football Focus, while Carolina’s front seven, which is playing much better as of late, should be able to contain running back Alvin Kamara, which takes away a major dimension of the Saints offense. With a better game from Allen and the offense, the Panthers will come out firing, and as a result, will come out of New Orleans with a crucial victory.
Raiders (6-4) at Jets (3-7)
Spread Pick: NYJ (+3)
Over/Under Pick: Under/PUSH (45.5)
Score Prediction: Raiders 21 Jets 24
With a 6-4 record, the Raiders are one week away from setting themselves up for an AFC West showdown. After all, all they have to do is beat the 3-7 Jets, which is a simple task, right? Not so much. Despite their record, Oakland’s point differential is actually negative, and they’ve relied on winning in unsustainable fashion (one-score games). Yes, Sam Darnold and the Jets’ recent surge has been guided by facing the Giants and Redskins, but it’s not as though Oakland’s pass defense is much better; they’ve particularly had issues defending the slot, and with nickel corner Lamarcus Joyner dealing with a hamstring injury, slot receiver Jamison Crowder could have a massive game. Plus, New York’s defensive line is quietly a strength of the team, and quietly, Oakland’s rushing attack has been regressing- Josh Jacobs has made the most behind an average run-blocking offensive line, and it’s starting to catch up for him. Then, you add that New York actually has been much more efficient on early downs recently than Oakland, according to Sharp Football Analysis, and that the Raiders may be looking ahead to the Chiefs game, and you have all the makings of a mini-upset. That’s what I’m anticipating will happen- look for the Jets to put a dent in Oakland’s playoff, and division, aspirations.
Seahawks (8-2) at Eagles (5-5)
Spread Pick: PHI (-1)
Over/Under Pick: Over (47)
Score Prediction: Seahawks 24 Eagles 34
Speaking of teams that aren’t as good as their record would suggest, the Seahawks are perhaps being overhyped- their 8-2 record likely isn’t legitimate. After all, they’ve won two games (Rams and 49ers) due to missed field goals, another (Bucs) in overtime, and have barely scraped by with wins against the Browns and Bengals. In fact, even though the public doesn’t believe so- Seattle has already gone from a three-point underdog to a one-point underdog – these teams are actually relatively equal in talent. The Eagles have had a brutal schedule, and because of that, they’ve been disregarded slightly- they’ll be able to have the underdog mentality that they’ve adopted down the stretch the past two seasons. Plus, they simply match up well with Seattle. Yes, Russell Wilson should expose their lackluster secondary, but assuming the Seahawks run-first offensive strategy remains in place, that may not matter. Especially, since Carson Wentz is due for a bounce-back game, and he’ll have the chance to do so against a defense that has a lackluster secondary and pass rush, and has particularly struggled against tight ends in 12 personnel. Well, Philadelphia’s offense runs best when they can get tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert involved at the same time, so just by being able to do so, they’ll be much more efficient. Furthermore, there’s also a coaching mismatch between the conservative Pete Carroll and the aggressive Doug Pederson, while Philadelphia has more urgency, and is playing in their second straight home game while the Seahawks are coming off of a bye. Long story short, these two teams seem bound to regress towards the mean, and that starts this Sunday with an Eagles victory.
Lions (3-6-1) at Redskins (1-9)
Spread Pick: DET (-3.5)/PUSH
Over/Under Pick: Under (40)
Score Prediction: Lions 13 Redskins 9
Oftentimes, teams that get a vote of confidence from the public don’t fare well, and the Lions are being betted 79% of the time in this game, according to Action Network. However, the fact that people have faith in a road team led by Jeff Driskel winning this game says more about the Redskins than anything- they’re a mess. Dwayne Haskins has little help around him besides rookie receiver Terry McLaurin, who probably will be contained by star corner Darius Slay. Additionally, Matt Patricia’s defense hasn’t fared well, but this Patriots style of defense always has success against rookie quarterbacks, so he should be able to confuse Haskins. Meanwhile, Driskel hasn’t been horrible since replacing the injured Matthew Stafford under center, and Washington’s secondary has really struggled recently. I don’t have much confidence in either team at the moment, but the Lions have played much more spirited football than the Redskins, and honestly, I can’t see them winning a home game given the bad publicity it brings. This should be a typical dull, low-scoring affair, but one that Detroit should be able to win.
Jaguars (4-6) at Titans (5-5)
Spread Pick: TEN (-3.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (42)
Score Prediction: Jags 17 Titans 23
Gear up folks, we have TWO AFC South matchups this weekend! The inconsistency that every team in this division has cannot be matched, so when they face each other, it makes this game very difficult to predict. Tennesee may come out flat coming out of their bye, while Jacksonville may be poised to bounce back after a blowout loss in Indianapolis. Yet, that doesn’t seem likely. To be frank, the Titans are a much better team than the Jaguars, as they’re the much more efficient team on early downs (per Sharp Football Analysis) are actually the only team in this game without a liability of a unit- Jacksonville’s defense has no identity after trading superstar cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Ryan Tannehill has completely changed Tennesee’s offense, which is quietly loaded with several impact playmakers and a strong offensive line. Meanwhile, the Jaguars cannot stop the run to save their lives, and don’t have the cornerback depth to match up with the Titans’ depth at receiver. Furthermore, Nick Foles has only played one full game as a Jaguar, but one thing is for certain- he is very turnover-prone under pressure. Well, Tennesee’s defensive line should be able to disrupt him significantly, while their elite run defense should completely shut down Jacksonville’s rushing attack, which head coach Doug Marrone has already publically declared to rely on more in this game. These games are always tricky, but it’d be foolish not to take the much more talented team at home, which would be the Titans.
Cowboys (6-4) at Patriots (9-1)
Spread Pick: NE (-5.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (45.5)
Score Prediction: Cowboys 13 Pats 24
In what is the NFL’s dream matchup, arguably the two most popular teams will face off when the Cowboys travel to New England to take on the Patriots in a high-profile matchup. Quietly, Dak Prescott has had an MVP caliber season in Dallas, but now, he’ll have to do battle against Bill Belichick’s defense, which is a completely different animal. That’s particularly true with the Cowboys, as a lot of Prescott’s success has come with him throwing to his first read, per Pro Football Focus, and against below-average defenses- this will be a major test for Dallas. Unfortunately for Prescott and co., I anticipate this being a difficult matchup for them. Assuming they bracket star receiver Amari Cooper, as they’ve done for Tyreek Hill, New England has the luxury to have elite cornerback Stephon Gillmore line up with Michael Gallup, which completely takes away Dallas’ effectiveness through the air. Furthermore, the Patriots offense has been stagnant of late, but so has the Cowboys’ defense, which has struggled to defend the likes of the Driskel-led Lions and the Jets. Therefore, as long as they can score around 20 points in this game, which they should, they’ll let their defense do the rest of the work against Prescott, who can sometimes still be turnover-prone, and a Cowboys offense that still is influenced heavily by head coach Jason Garrett. These two teams may have similar amounts of talent, but the coaching mismatch is too significant to ignore- I can’t see Dallas having a solution on how to move the ball against the Patriots, and as a result, probably won’t be able to keep this game as close as one would expect from a team with their talent.
SNF: Packers (8-2) at 49ers (9-1)
Spread Pick: SF (-3)
Over/Under Pick: Under/PUSH (48)
Score Prediction: Packers 13 49ers 34
In what is the game of the week, two of the NFC’s top teams will do battle in a game with major implications for playoff seeding. At first glance, a game between an 8-2 and 9-1 team should theoretically be a very close game. However, we could be looking at a very lopsided affair when it’s all set in done. Green Bay is likely to be rusty coming off a bye, and has yet to face any challenge quite like a 49ers team that will be getting back star tight end George Kittle back. For instance, their vulnerabilities defensively over the middle of the field, in both pass coverage and run defense, and the problem for the Packers is, that’s where Kyle Shanahan’s offense thrives in. Therefore, Green Bay’s only chance of competition is in a shootout, but without any serious vertical threat outside of Davante Adams, they’ve yet to prove that they’re built to dominate against a top-tier defense. When Kyle Shanahan is able to take control of the game, it’s a scary sight for opposing teams, and that’ll happen to the Packers in San Francisco- the 49ers will get an early lead, which will leave Aaron Rodgers to try to engage in comeback mode against an elite pass defense. In other words, the 49ers will get one step closer to securing home-field advantage in the NFC with a statement victory, something they’ve been searching for.
MNF: Ravens (8-2) at Rams (6-4)
Spread Pick: LAR (+3)
Over/Under Pick: Over/PUSH (46.5)
Score Prediction: Ravens 17 Rams 30
Wrapping up the week with a very intriguing matchup, the Ravens and Rams will do battle in Los Angeles in a very significant matchup. Whereas Baltimore is looking to make another statement with a win to help them secure a first-round bye, the Rams are trying to stay afloat in the NFC playoff picture. It clearly doesn’t seem like these teams are evenly matched, as the public is betting the Ravens at an 80% rate, according to Action Network. Yet, that seems rather outlandish- not only am I taking the underdog, I’m also siding with, in my opinion, the better overall team. Los Angeles may not have impressed in their 17-7 win against the Bears last week, but by allowing just three pressures against one of the league’s premier pass rushes, their new offensive line combination worked magnificently. Now, they get to face one of the league’s pass rushes, and because of that, Jared Goff should be able to utilize his abundance of playmakers- receivers Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks will return in this game. Additionally, although the Ravens offense has been spectacular with Lamar Jackson stealing the show, they’ve yet to face as fast and well-rounded of a defense as the Rams (the Pats don’t have the speed), who also has done well against heavy formations, which Baltimore utilizes a lot. In other words, Baltimore won’t be able to get out to an early lead in this game, which is critical- Jackson has looked out of sorts every time he’s been forced to come from behind in a game. This actually a perfect matchup for the Ravens, as they can match their strengths, while Baltimore’s weaknesses fit right into theirs. While this may seem absurd at the moment, I do see the Rams having complete control of this game, as they’ll cruise to a two-score victory to assert themselves in the playoff mix.